You can judge a book by its cover : a brief survey of materials [Sobota, Jan]

Bound in modified laced-in dark red Moroccan goatskin with facsimiles of six book spines (different colored goatskin) applied to front and back covers; covers have gold, blind tooling, and leather onlays; dark red morocco doublures with gold tooling; marbled flyleaves; red and gold gauffered top edges; in a 'slipcase' of leather-covered binder's board and laminated paper, shaped in the image of the author (Bernard Middleton) seated with arms and legs crossed protectively over the book; in a drop-spine outer box.

Jan Sobota finished his apprentice program with Karel Silinger in Plzen, Czechoslovakia, and graduated at The School of Applied Arts in Prague (prof. Emil Pertak) in 1957. He received a Masters Degree in Applied Arts, majoring in bookbinding in 1969. In 1979 he was accepted into the MDE program and was given the honorable title of Meister der Einbandkunst. In Czechoslovakia Jan had worked in his private studio as a member of the Czech Art Guild. He had restored many important books, documents and art objects from national treasure collections, although his main focus was on creating and promoting fine and design bookbinding.

In 1982 Jan defected to Switzerland, where he opened his private studio and also demonstrated bookbinding in Basler Papier Muhle. In 1984 the Sobota family moved to the USA and Jan started to work for Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Two years later the Sobotas opened Saturday’s Book Arts Gallery in Cleveland, and in 1988 in the nearby town of Geneva. There they organized many national and international bookbinding and book arts exhibitions, lectures, workshops and the School of Bookbinding and Restoration. Since 1990 Jan worked as the director of the Conservation Laboratory at Birdwell Library of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Since 1997 he worked in the family bookbinding studio. Jan was known internationally for creating exciting and original design bindings and booksculptures. Since 1969 he exhibited in twenty solo exhibitions and participated in more than one hundred and fifty collective book and art exhibitions in the cities of four continents. He passed away in 2012.


“Modified laced-in binding of dark red Moroccan goatskin with facsimiles of six spines covered with different colors of goatskin applied to the front and back covers. Gold and blind tooling is applied along with leather onlays. On the slipcase is an imaginative caricature of the author seated on the floor with feet crossed, arms extended and fingers interlaced as though he is protecting a bundle of books and is made of binders board and laminated paper covered with different types and colors of leather. The outer box is made of binders board covered with cloth with a leather label affixed. An additional difficulty, in this case, is that I have only seen Bernard Middleton in person twice (and a few times in photographs) – so the caricature of him as a ‘book protector’ had to be done completely from memory.”